The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) will visit Washington with a high-ranking Swiss delegation from 17 to 19 November. The focus of the visit will be on cooperation on vocational education and training as part of a broader effort to intensify bilateral relations in the areas of business, education, research and innovation.
Switzerland and the USA have been engaged in an intensive dialogue on vocational education and training (VET) for several years. Guy Parmelin, President of the Swiss Confederation and head of the EAER, will join US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, US Secretary of Labour Marty Walsh, and US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves in Washington on 18 November to sign a new memorandum of understanding (MoU), thus expressing the will to continue and expand the countries’ partnership in the VET area. The MoU provides an important political framework allowing education and business stakeholders to act independently when initiating various visits and joint knowledge transfer projects. Like the previous MoU of 2018, the latest MoU will be valid for three years.
State Secretaries Martina Hirayama (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI) and Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO) will accompany Mr Parmelin. The delegation also includes National Council member and Chair of the Swiss Parliamentary Association Switzerland–USA Christa Markwalder, President of the Swiss National Science Foundation Matthias Egger, and President of Innosuisse André Kudelski.
They will also visit the White House to meet with Eric Lander, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, to discuss the two countries’ priorities in research and innovation. Mr Parmelin will hold talks with members of Congress and representatives of Swiss companies based in the USA to discuss strengthening cooperation in the VET field. A virtual meeting with US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is also planned.
The signing of an MoU between the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) will be another highlight. This letter of intent underlines the will of both research funding agencies to work together more intensively in the future and to further expand their bilateral cooperation. The SNSF has already concluded similar agreements with various countries within and outside Europe.
The USA is Switzerland’s largest research partner, participating in around 15% of publications by researchers in Switzerland. Since 2016, the SNSF has funded more than 5,000 projects in Switzerland that involve some form of collaboration with the USA. This close relationship reflects the countries’ significant economic interdependence: the USA is Switzerland’s second-most important trading partner, while Switzerland is one of the largest investors in the USA.